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Green Space Reduces Urban Crime and Depression
From Vacant Lots to Clean Lots

Green Space Reduces Urban Crime and Depression

Keith Green, a Philadelphia native, has witnessed a change in mental health and behavior in poor communities due to the implementation of green spaces. According to Voice of America, studies demonstrate that green space reduces urban crime and depression.

A research article titled, "Vacant Properties and Violence in Neighborhoods," suggests that vacant lots and buildings can be a refuge for illegal activity. Known as the 'Broken Windows' theory, these areas encourage crime and further deteriorate neighborhoods. Programs have been initiated to restore and improve these vacant spaces, such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadelphia LandCare, founded by Keith Green.

It is a program that focuses on the challenge of land vacancy and the need for neighborhood redevelopment. According to Voice of America (VOA), Green realized his hometown had many abandoned properties (about 40,000) that attract crime, from vandalism to storing drugs and weapons. Green decided to do something to improve the vast amount of vacant lots.

VOA also stated that Gina South, an emergency department physician at the University of Pennsylvania, became interested in Philadelphia LandCare and co-wrote in recent studies about the reductions in gun violence and depression in low-income communities of Philadelphia as a result of Green's program.

In one study, for example, she and her colleagues found that people's heart rates declined as they walked past lots that were cleaned up. Further studies showed South and VOA that the clean and green lots resulted in an overall 40 percent drop in rates of depression and a 10 percent decrease in crime.

Through various programs, these empty lots are turning into green parks and improving the mental health and behaviors of poor neighborhoods. This LandCare program has two initiatives, "Clean and Green" and Community LandCare, which work with community organizations and landscape contractors to target vacant lots in specific neighborhoods and maintain the landscape. For more information on the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's program, visit

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December 7, 2019, 3:33 am PDT

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